St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
The following Saturday Jim's parents were going to celebrate their twenty-second
anniversary on the seventeenth of October and Lupe’s seventeenth birthday was on the
fifteenth. It was Jim's treat, and they went to Pisa’s Italian Restaurant on the corner of
Grant and Vallejo Streets on the edge of North Beach and Chinatown. This was a
traditional meal that would last about two hours similar to celebrating Christmas, Easter, or
a special occasion like tonight.
Pisa’s Restaurant had long wooden tables with red and white checkered
tablecloths. Everyone sat alongside of each other, allowing friendly conversation that
enhanced the meal. The main dish was veal written on a blackboard. The meal began
with red wine, French bread, and antipasto: vegetables and tuna marinated in olive oil and
spices. When they finished the waiter brought bowls of minestrone soup. Next was a
salad with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and green onions, and a dash of basil with olive oil and
vinegar. Then small dishes of ravioli were served, followed by small dishes of chicken
caccitorre: baked chicken in a tomato sauce. Next the main course was served with slices
of veal in gravy, Swiss chard, and risotto: rice cooked with saffron. Coffee was served with
vanilla ice cream instead of using cream.
Two hours and seven courses later they left Pisa’s and walked through North
Beach, along Columbus to the Stockton Street tunnel, then back to the park in front of St.
Peter’s and Paul’s Church. It was nine o’clock, and the church bells rang loudly on the
hour. The Chinese mahjong and paigao parlors across the street collected Tong: payment
to the house for playing the games from the players, every hour when the bells rang. If
only the good fathers at St. Peter and Paul’s knew For Whom The Bell Tolls. It was cold,
so they quickly returned to Joe’s car.
Joe and Mary dropped off Jim and Lupe at Lupe’s apartment. As they walked up
the stairs, Jim stopped Lupe and kissed her. She looked surprise when he gave her the
tiny box. She opened it, and her eyes and month opened wide with surprise. He had
given her an eighteen-karat gold ring with a large white pearl for her birthday. It was his
formal way of expressing his commitment to her. Lupe hugged Jim and said, “I love you
Jim replied, ”So do I.”
They walked into the apartment. Rosa was waiting to hear about the evening. She
had spent the early part of evening caring for an elderly lady friend. Lupe showed Rosa
the pearl ring. “Looks pretty serious to me,” said Rosa.
Jim approached Rosa and said, “I plan to marry Lupe when I graduated from
college. I want you to understand that we’ll have an engagement party when we
graduated from high school. Rosa, I ‘m asking you for permission to marry Lupe.”
“You have my blessing.”
Lupe and Jim thanked her, and told Rosa that they wanted a nice wedding, not a
big wedding, so they could use some of the money towards a down payment on a house.
Lupe told Rosa, “ You can live with us. You’ll be close to the grandchildren,”
“You don’t mind if I live with you?” asked Rosa.
“I was Jim’s idea,” said Lupe.
Rosa looked at Jim, and he said, “Nobody cooks chicken with rice like you.”
“That’s very nice of you to offer that to me. You have a good man. Take good
care of him,” said Rosa.
“I will.” said Lupe.
St. Nick's had beaten Mission, Poly, and S.I. and were 5-0. They would play
Lincoln, Washington, and Balboa. S.I. was 4-1, and would have to beat Mission, Balboa,
and Lowell to play in the championship. Garcia was back at school and getting around
with crutches. He went to all of the practices and gave the team encouragement, standing
on the sidelines during the game, cheering for the players. When St. Nick’s was on
defense, Jim sat with Garcia, and they talked about the game. Garcia heard what the
team had done the weekend of the big game. There was a large rock that sat at the
entrance of Junipero Serra Boulevard, near Lake Merced. The rock was painted white
each year with the score of the S.I - St. Nick’s game. This year they painted the score on
the rock 21-14, and added “Irish Rule.” The local disk jockey for KYA was Emperor Gene,
who had graduated from St. Nick’s and played “Cherry Pie” for the lads on Jesuit Hill
several times. Some of the guys put blue dye in the Saint Ignatius swimming pool and
strung white toilet paper on the surrounding trees--St. Nick’s school colors.
Monday Jim went to Henry’s Drug store to get cold medication for Lupe. Henry
asked, “How are you dong at school, Jim?”
“I’m doing fine.”
What’s your grade point average?”
“3.4 and holding.”
“Have you thought about what you’ll study at college?” asked Henry.
“I like law and finance.”
“I know someone at the University of Santa Clara if you need a recommendation,”
“I was planning to go to San Francisco State. I don’t have enough money for a
private Jesuit university,”
“They have scholarships. Have you applied for financial aid?”
“I want to pay my way through college. That’s why I went to Alaska. I have
enough money for San Francisco State and to get married after I graduate from college,”
“I have some alumni friends from Santa Clara. I’ll see what I can do for you,”
Henry had graduated from Santa Clara in the glory days when the Bronco’s won the
Orange Bowl in the late forties. Jim had never considered Santa Clara or the University of
San Francisco because they were expensive, private Jesuit universities. If he went to
Santa Clara that would be great. He had heard that the Jesuits were very demanding, and
had a good reputation.
Jim walked across the street, and said hello to Pete at the smoke shop. Pete
said that he would be closing the shop at the end of the year, and he was going to retire
to Flagstaff, Arizona to live with his daughter’s family. He had slowed down considerably
the last year, and it was an effort walking to the store each day and returning home. The
Noe Valley Merchants Association wasn’t going to renew his lease because they never
liked having a neighborhood store that sold adult magazines. Calfas was one of the guys
from the Alley and walked in the smoke shop. He had had polio as a child and walked with
a staggered stride. Calfas always smiled and never seemed to have a bad day.
“Have you guys heard about the shooting?”
“No,” said Pete. Jim hadn’t paid much attention to the shooting because of how
much it upset his mother and Lupe. He was busy with school, football, and Lupe.
Calfas’ eyes opened wide with excitement and he began, “They caught ‘em in
Nevada, near Reno. They were on the run for six months. They went to Arizona, New
Mexico, and Nevada robbing liquor stores and stealing cars. They robbed a liquor store in
Yuma, and hit the owner in the head with the shotgun they used to rob the store. “
“How did they get caught?” asked Pete.
Calfas took a breath and continued, “Well, the guy in Yuma died two days later, and
they were murder suspects. They went to Nevada and tried to rob a liquor store outside of
Reno. The owner was an ex-cop and a good shot.”
Pete started to ask, “ So how did they get…?”
Calfas interrupted, “I’m getting there Pete, now just hold on. The owner shot two
tires out, as they tried to drive away. They started to run away and the ex-cop shot one of
‘em in the leg. The other guy surrendered. When they did a background check they found
out about the Yuma and San Francisco killings with their finger prints and descriptions, and
they had records as juvenile offenders in San Francisco. The irony is that the shooter’s
mother had placed a missing person report, thinking that something had happened to her
son. Little did she know that the missing person report started a chain of investigation that
led to her son’s arrest. The lady across the street from Pete’s and a guy in the liquor store
in Yuma gave similar descriptions of the shooter.”
“But why did they kill Clark and Balliet?” asked Pete.
“When a Bart loses a fight he will do anything to regain his pride. It’s a macho
thing. Clark had kicked this guy’s ass a couple of times since the Mission Dolores dance.
Weren’t you there fighting with him that night, Jim?” asked Calfas.
“Yeah, I was. That was the night I met Lupe. I can’t believe that Barts are so crazy
that they would kill someone to maintain their macho pride,” said Jim.
“They have a saying, be a man, kill a man,” said Calfas.
“Calfas, how do you know so much about this? I haven’t seen it in the newspaper,”
“My brother is a cop, and works at the Hall of Justice. He’s the guy that does the
bookings. They are going to bring the two guys here for the murder trial. My brother
saw the case file,” said Calfas.
“How about that,” said Pete.
Calfas and Jim left Pete’s and walked to the Alley. Cowens and Bordi were
arguing again. All was normal in the Alley.
Saturday, October 27th, and Lupe and Jim went to their first rock concert at the
Cow Palace. A promoter named Bill Graham had put together a Halloween dance called
the Battle of the Bands. It was five dollars per person to hear local bands hoping to be
discovered. Lupe and Jim were familiar with one group, but had never heard of the others.
The Hell’s Angels were a rowdy bunch of bikers, and took all of the seats in front of the
stage. They were drinking, and smoking something that had a distinct smell. Jim saw a
naked girl getting passed around as each biker finished having her. She was paying her
dues to have the distinction of becoming the property of the Hells Angels. Jim took Lupe
to the back, away from the animals in the front, where it wasn’t as loud, and they escaped
the cloud of cigarette and marijuana smoke. The first two groups performed and left
without much response from the crowd that was too busy getting drunk or high on
drugs. Jim and Lupe were enjoying the music and avoiding the chaos that was going on in
the front. The third group came out and Jim and Lupe recognized the group from playing
for Cinco de Mayo and other Mexican events. The band was from Potrero Hill and played
Latin rock n roll. Jim enjoyed watching the conga drum player and Lupe enjoyed watching
Carlos on lead guitar. They played for an hour and left, but the audience continued
applauding, so they came back three times. Next was a band that played new music
called psychedelic. Their first song was good, but haunting. It was called “White Rabbit.”
The lead singer’s name was Grace and the group was called the Jefferson Airplane. Jim
and Lupe didn’t stay for the last group. They didn’t care for their name, the Loven’
Spoonful. On the way home Lupe asked, ”What was the name of the band that we liked?”
“It was Santana, Angel,” said Jim.
“I think they ‘re great,” she said. They enjoyed the music, but didn’t like the
drinking, drugs, and the new psychedelic culture. Surfing music was still boss.
It was Sunday afternoon, October 28, and Brother Justin wanted more information
about amphetamines and barbiturates since attending the drug conference. He went to
the main library at the Civic Center, and spent two hours gathering information. One of the
staff was very helpful and assisted Brother Justin twice at the reference section. He
seemed very friendly and Brother Justin sensed the young man was flirting with him, briefly
aroused him. He had that feeling again. It was the same sinful feeling that had separated
him from Bill at Mount la Salle in their junior year when they were more than best friends.
They were discovering the pleasure of their bodies. Brother Justin couldn’t accept that
he had homosexual tendencies. He was called by God to become a Christian Brother.
Since he recently saw Bill that old feeling woke up inside and now this young man with
blonde shaggy hair and lean body with muscle tone that stretched his tight knit shirt. His
tight pants accentuated his small, but round, firm ass. Brother Justin was filled with
fantasy, but his Catholic conscience jerked him back to reality.
“Excuse me, but you seemed to drift way. My name is Rusty. If you need further
assistance I’ll be in the reference section, over there.” Rusty gracefully pointed in the
direction of the reference desk, and ran his hand through his shaggy blonde hair. Then
he glided across the room. This was not good. It was that sinful feeling again that Brother
Justin had denied with Bill when they were at Mount La Salle. He was young and curious
then, but now he was a man of God, and fought the devil’s temptations daily. He had
similar battles with pleasures of the flesh before, but this time it was overwhelming. He
needed to go on a retreat again. He needed to look inside his soul, and try to find himself.
He could no longer fight the inner battle that now possessed him. He left the library, and
avoided the young man. Rusty waved and said, ”Good bye.” Brother Justin walked out
quickly, and tried to deal with the beast inside him. He felt dirty and sinful. He began to
say the Act of Contrition in Latin, hoping for forgiveness. He got in his car, and drove back
to St. Nick’s. There was a statue of St. Christopher on the dashboard. It seemed to be
staring at him. He felt filthy. He needed penance. He needed help.
It was Halloween night and the children came early for their treats. The doorbell
rang often, and each time Jim and Lupe opened the door, new faces with big smiles
said, “Trick or treat!” They gave the children wax paper bags of peanuts and popcorn
tied with string. Lupe hoped that they had enough bags for the children. Jim had
brought a bag of miniature Snickers candy bars just in case more children came than
planned. It was a busy time, but fun. Most of the children had come for their treats by
They sat in the living room, and had a serious conversation about the future. Jim
asked Lupe if she was planning to get a job after high school or if she was going to
college. ”My mom could use the money. I’ll get a job.”
“Have you considered going to City College for two years and getting an AA
“I don’t think I’m smart enough for college.”
“Yes, you are. You can do anything that you really want to do.”
“How about my mom?”
“You can work part time. It will make her proud, and you will never regret going to
college. I will pay for your books and registration fee. Do it for your mom and yourself.”
“I’ll try it for one year. If I do well, I’ll continue.”
“Good. What do you think you would like to study?”
“I like bookkeeping.”
”Good. Then it is agreed that you are going to City College for a year to study
“What are you going to study at State? Lupe asked”
“I spoke with Henry at the drugstore the other day. He said he would help me apply
to the University of Santa Clara. He graduated from Santa Clara.”
“Wow, cookie, that’s a Jesuit university. It’s hard to get in, and expensive.”
“I have money for State and our wedding, but if Henry can help me get a
scholarship, I’ll give it a try.”
“You always aim so high”
“Sister Rose motivated me to get accepted to St. Nick’s. Then I discovered that I
could get good grades if I tried. I have always tried to aim high. Now that I have you I
try that much harder.”
“I am proud of you Cookie”
Rosa walked in from the kitchen with a plate of Mexican cookies. They drank
coffee and the three of them talked about the charity dinner for Thanksgiving at St.
James Church. Each year Rosa and Lupe donated time to St. James Church at
Thanksgiving and Christmas. They would spend their weekends collecting cans of food
and unwanted clothes for the poor. Jim said that he would join them this year. Rosa
and Lupe were kind and thoughtful people, and Jim was become more like them. He was
a better person because of Lupe. Rosa left them alone in them living room. Lupe always
sat close to Jim, and would rest her head on his shoulder and hug him. Soon she would
enjoy a peaceful, quiet rest. She was comfortable in the arms of love. Jim could feel the
expansion and contraction of her body as she breathed. Sometimes he didn’t move for an
hour to not disturb her. Then she would come back from resting with the angels. She
would smile and hug him, and say, “I love you.”. He would kiss the top of her head and
whisper, ” Me too, you too.”
More next week...